“You mean those hills over there?” asked USLMRA VP Kerry Evans as he looked at the foothills leading up form the Clackamas River Basin in Estacada, Oregon. “In Alabama those hills are mountains!” And so began the July 4 weekend in Estacada, Oregon, home of the U.S. Pacific Coast Open and STA-BIL Pacific Coast Summer Nationals.
Hosted by Estacada Area Community Events (EACE) and organized by USLMRA West Coast Regional Director Bud Elmore, mowmentum and expectations for this weekend were high since October 2010 when Bud first made a site inspection to Estacada to meet Race Promoter and EACE Chairman Dan Skoog. These expectations were met and exceeded from the moment Kerry and I arrived on site to meet an army of volunteers, who created the Northwest Technologies Mow Bang Raceway.
Immediately upon meeting up with Gary Tucker, President of the local Northwest Lawn Mower Racing Association (NWLMRA) and NWLMRA members Scott MacFarlane, Tim Dennison, Mike and Melody Berkheiser, Dave Miller and Jim Knutson we knew we were going to have a fun weekend.
The cooperation, dedication and over all MOWtivation (sorry, I really mean it!) of the entire EACE team was apparent from the minute we pulled into the festival site, where Kerry and I witnessed the transformation of property owner Mike Park’s open fields into both an event site and one of the nicest lawn mower racing tracks we have ever seen. The time and effort Bud put into this was apparent, as we walked the 10th mile dirt/clay track.
Friday morning saw us up before the roosters crowed, as we had a TV gig with KGW TV Portland personality Drew Carney for his “Out and About” segment. Drew is a very popular TV personality in Portland, and local Estacada folks turned out to see EACE Committee Member Steve Stone and USLMRA lawn mower racers promote the weekend events. Drew was awesome! He was very cool and loved the racing lawn mowers. When he was allowed to drive one, you could see him grin ear to ear. We were the featured attraction of his morning show, with several “teaser” segments and longer interviews during Drew’s two-hour gig.
At 7:00 am, Drew’s segment was over, so Kerry and I popped over to Mount Hood so Kerry could see a real mountain! Upon our return we met up with Bob Newman and the Sac Valley Lawn Mower Racers from Sacramento. Bob and his wife Sylvia, Wes Laster, Chris Poncin and his family, Steve Heald and his family, Ed and Nick Weinmoritz and their extended family along with Bob’s grandson racer Eric Munoz were all awesome.
After a trip to the local grocery store to stock up on steak, burgers, brats and assorted munchies, we headed back to the pits for a camp fire and barbecue under the brilliant Pacific Northwest stars, surrounded by pine, spruce and Douglas Fir. The smell of campfire smoke and barbecue charcoal wafted across the spacious, grassy pit area. It was awesome.
Saturday morning was Race Day Number 1, and we were ready to meet many new racers and friends: FFF/WOO crew from Washington rolled in, led by their leader Kevin Rogers along with the Kushel brothers and Justin McCorkle. Randy Marshall, Ryan Whitney and the Sportsman Grasscar Racing Club from Wamic, Oregon pulled in next. Many local racers from Estacada got the bug and joined the fun. More members of the Northwest Mower Racing Association rolled in, including Aaron Bany and Nick Munson.
The racers were issued their transponders, with great help provided by Melody Berkheiser, and after a smooth tech inspection directed by Bob Newman of the Sac Valley Racers, and a driver’s meeting, it was mow time.
The track was in top shape, and the EACE crew led by Mike Mofford was on top of things all day, and the entire weekend. Speeds kept going up as the track settled into its groove. Aaron Bany and Kevin Rogers were especially impressive, turning lap times of 15.523 and 15.945 on the 10th mile dirt track. Compete race results can be found here.
Day 1 concluded with the presentation of some AMAZING trophies from event sponsor Northwest Technologies. Thanks to Eric Sale for provided the trophies, which were custom, etched mirrors in the shape of the state of Oregon. Awesome! Saturday’s events also saw yours truly take a turn in the dunk tank to raise money for a 9-11 charity flag tour and join in on keyboard for the blues jam band on stage for Mustang Sally, Sweet Home Chicago and Further on up the Road. I did not make my usual $4.00, but what the heck. Day 1 concluded with a scare, with our good friend Bud Elmore landing in the hospital due to severe dehydration after working his tail off on the track for 5 days. Fortunately, we all found out Bud was OK, and he returned to the track on Sunday.
With Sunday Registration opening at 11:00am, Kerry and I met up with Mike Mofford and Scott Shaw, two old buddies, for a jet boat white water rapid run down the Clackamas River. Very, very cool. We put in at Oregon City, the termination point of the famous Oregon Trail, and headed up the Clackamas, shooting rapids, tossing some casts and digging the surroundings. Mike and Scott knew every inch of the river, and every fishing hole. Kerry and I hustled back to the track, and pulled in at 10:59 am for Racer Registration…. with one minute to spare…whew!!!!
Day 2, Sunday, was more casual, as are most 2nd days of race weekends. Registration was a breeze, with Melody Berkheiser again helping out at Registration. Tech Inspection was a cursory safety check and after heat laps and practice, it was game on for Day 2. Kerry had timing and scoring well in control from the trailer provided as Race Command. Scott McFarlane did a fine job as Chief Steward. Melody Berkheiser served as Pit Marshall, Gary Tucker handed announcing duties, and I got to sit back in an easy chair and watch it all unfold! The U.S. Open Twin race between Aaron Bany and Bob Newman was a highlight of the day… here’s some video:
And there you have it….one of the best race weekends I ever had: the people in Estacada, the new racers we met, the track, the fun, the pit partying…awesome. And here is the best news yet: We’ll be back in 2012!!!!!